Donations will be sent to support the communities of the Holy Land. With the crisis in the Middle East and the persecution of Christians "extraordinary" expenditure are up, and the Collection is not enough. In his appeal, the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches says that “the “small Christian presence in the Middle East” needs “the support and attention of the entire Church”.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, released a message today for the traditional Good Friday Collection.
“Today, as we know, living the Christian faith in the Middle East is not at all easy,” the statement reads. For this reason, “the small Christian presence in the Middle East has great need of the support and attention of the entire Church”.
Inspired in particular by Paul VI through the apostolic exhortation Nobis in animo of 25 March 1974, the Collection is made in all Catholic churches around the world, covering 75 per cent of the funds of the Custody of the Holy Land. The collection benefits many places such as Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
However, as noted in the Congregation’s 2015-16 summary report, donations are not enough. In 2015-16, the Collection raised € 1,833,339.20 and US$ 5,275,601.56, not enough to cover expenses: school grants amounted to US$ 3 million, 1.4 million for Bethlehem University, which has 3,000 students. Regular grants for Holy Land churches were almost US$ 2 million and € 19,000.
On top of this, there were "extraordinary" expenses, such as more than US$ 800,000 and € 20,000 for "the human folly and atrocities of the so-called Islamic State”, which “forced many Christians to leave their countries, especially in Syria and Iraq.”
In light of this, “the Christians who have remained in these countries” and “those who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan” require “the means for a dignified life”. Hence, “greater cooperation and generous effort is required of Christians all over the world for their brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and the Middle East.”
In an interview, Fr Ramzi Sidawi, the bursar of the Custody of the Holy Land, stressed the importance of the Custody’s pastoral and social works in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth, including "the houses that the Custody rents to the local population,” especially in Jerusalem, "to help them remain in this land."
Having residency papers for Jerusalem gives Palestinians papers a chance to work and travel. But it is hard to please everyone. "As soon as news spreads that a house is free from tenants, we receive tens of requests, but we can rent it only to one family.”
Speaking to AsiaNews, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Francis Patton, stressed the importance of the Collection to the life and service of the Custody, along with all the donations that the Holy Land receives each year by "people who love it."
In particular, Fr Patton mentioned pastoral and charity works that benefit Catholics in the Holy Land, but also other communities, such as housing, especially for “young couples”, basic works of mercy, and 15 Custody-run schools with 10,000 students, Muslims included.
"There are activities not only in the big parishes of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, but also in Akko, Cana and Jericho," Fr Patton explained. In addition, the 50 Custody-managed shrines serving pilgrims are a resource for local Christians and others, creating a positive economic feedback loop. The recently completed restoration of the aedicule in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulcher is one of them.
In a joint press release, the Custody announced that the Holy See allocated a million dollars for the restoration of the area surrounding the aedicule and the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. “Care and concern for these two Holy Places, which for centuries have nourished the faith of the Church and that of countless pilgrims, are a sign and expression of love for Christ Himself”.
For Fr Patton, Good Friday donations are a symbol of love for the Holy Land. "He who gives loves the Christian community, which we call the 'living stones' of the Holy Land,” but he also “loves the stones of the shrines, which become alive thanks to pilgrims' prayers."